Designing for Extreme Accessibility – Yossi Langer to Present at EuroIA

How would you design digital tools to be used by people who can manipulate only a foot or an eye? How do you create an interface that works equally for people with full motor control and those unable to even touch a screen?

Find out in Yossi’s presentation for next week’s EuroIA conference in Amsterdam:  “Switches, Keyguards, Eyegaze Trackers: Designing Device Interfaces for Extreme Accessibility,” – inspired by a particularly interesting design challenge that Iteration Group embarked on with Prentke Romich Company (PRC) earlier this year.

PRC is a leader in speech generating software and devices. They have been been making tools to help people who cannot speak for over 50 years and asked us to redesign their user interface. This interface is used by people with autism, cerebral palsy, ALS, and other conditions that prevent speech communication.

We’ll make sure to share the video after the conference, but for anyone who might be around Amsterdam in late September, stop by and say hi to Yossi or tweet him @yossilanger!

Mostly Avoid Sidebar “Hamburger” Menus

Many of you might have noticed Facebook’s change from a “Hamburger” menu to a more traditional, docked-to-the-bottom-of-the-screen menu.

Luis Abreu, a blogger and UX / UI Designer suggests that Hamburger menus should be avoided in many cases because:

  • Stuff is hidden and hard to discover
  • It’s less efficient; requires one tap to reveal the menu options, and another to tap the item you want
  • It can clash with standard navigation patterns like the “< Back” button, causing confusion

In our experience, Hamburger menus make sense for some audiences, but straightforward bottom-navigation menus work for everyone.

Phones are Getting Larger; Design Appropriately

Scott Hurff explains that “Apple’s iPhone 6…officially signaled the Dawn of the Era of Huge Screens.”

The “natural” zone for your thumb has changed; it’s harder to tap things at the top of the screen, for example. If you upgraded to an iPhone 6, you probably noticed this in the first few minutes.

Be sure to design accordingly. Don’t put important buttons / icons / targets in areas that are hard to reach.

P.S. You may not be aware of an iOS feature called “Reachability” – double tap (don’t press but just tap) the Home button and whatever app you’re using will slide down within easy reach of your thumb. See here.

How We Conduct User Testing and User Interviews

Usually “Informal” User Testing is the Best ROI

Too often “user-testing” can mean a months-long process that only creates reams of documentation that go unread. We typically focus on getting the highest-value results as quickly as possible. Our staff is trained in methods of identifying target customers, segmenting them, and then building understanding of how to optimally design for those target groups. We do this in a way that balances the need to move fast with the rigor and balance of an unbiased experiment.

7483010074_cd45e2bfcd_oWe work with our clients to develop an understanding of the target market, and then challenge those assumptions to create a nuanced view of the target customer. Then we’ll identify ways to quickly reach people in those markets (including Facebook ads, attending industry meetups, finding enthusiasts on Instagram, and more) and schedule a series of interviews with those users (in the office or at a coffee shop), which are recorded, transcribed, and mined for insights.

Once a prototype has been developed, we’ll sit down with additional users in the target areas to gauge the usability of the prototype and ensure that it’s meeting their needs. In our experience, no other methodology works as quickly to ensure that we’re building products to delight customers.

 

If Needed – Formal Usability Testing in a Lab

In these cases, we handle the entire project “turn-key,” including recruiting and compensating the participants, preparing the testing facility, and reporting the results.  We expect the following work will be required, in ongoing collaboration with the client:

  • Kickoff / Assessments
    • Discuss top-level goals, what is good and bad about the existing product, areas for improvement, advantages / disadvantages, motivators, drawbacks, calls-to-action. Discuss hypotheses (e.g. “we think it breaks because of x”).
    • Discuss metrics that might be available that suggest current product performance or areas for improvement.
    • Discuss demographic breakdowns (e.g. lean more towards customers that are shopping for more expensive items or just an “across the board” type of customer sample).
  • Develop a screener that successfully selects for the right participants from the general population. Attempt to screen for certain recent qualifying activities related to the task (i.e. visited a competitors web site, purchased books on the subject, etc.).

Lab

  • Recruit participants from the general population. Recruit “floater” participants to be available as-needed in the case of no-shows or disqualified participants. Compensate the participants.
  • Develop test materials including the moderator guide. Handle the multiple ways and platforms in which the product should be tested (e.g. mobile, web, tablet, etc.).
  • Run the usability testing and handle the testing logistics.
    • Prepare the testing facility, prepare the technology (including video recording and live stream if necessary), prepare the observation room with large screen, and prepare all of the devices that are to be tested.
    • Expect several days at the usability testing lab.
    • Testing conducted by UX Researchers under the supervision of our Engagement Manager. Detailed logging and note taking.
    • Some participation by client, e.g. two to five people in attendance per day observing the testing in progress. Parking and meals to be provided.
  • Conduct analysis and report testing results. Review and crunch the resulting data.  Report on the results, issues, and recommendations in an actionable presentation format.

Maps are Everywhere; Make Them Useful

So many top consumer and business apps use maps extensively. Think about Yelp (local listings and reviews), Zillow (residential real estate), Loopnet (commercial real estate), Waze (navigation), Foursquare (social), Uber (taxi service) and others.

Mostly these companies are using the Google Maps API or the Bing Maps API to draw maps and put “pins” on various locations.

That’s basically it. Two huge providers (Google and Microsoft) are the “default” go-to sources for maps for all startups and tech products.  And there’s been little to no innovation here. Maps can be more useful and can be dynamically rendered based on the exact needs of the user (at that moment in time):

 

  • unnamed-3-They can be skewed, morphed, and distorted.  Think about the iconic Disneyland Map. See this incredible map of Queenstown New Zealand that shows the slope of the streets. See these maps by The Atlantic that visualize the world’s population.While, historically, a cartographer’s life’s work might have been to perfectly map, say, the coastlines of South America, today, for most consumer and business applications, nobody cares. The geography isn’t sacred.
  • Information can be hidden or shown. See this Google map for “tacos” in San Francisco.  And here it is on Yelp. In both cases, the amount of data being displayed is incredible. And how does it serve the user? Does the user really need to see all of those street names, all of those streets, all of that detail?
  • Typography, landmarks, and roads can be promoted or demoted in visual priority. Bigger or smaller. More black or more gray. The actionable data can be brought to the forefront.

Now, all that said, you wouldn’t possibly dare to draw your own maps, from scratch. That would, for most dev groups, be an insane technical challenge and probably a wee bit outside of your company’s core focus and competency (I assume you’re busy tackling some consumer or business application).

Meet our client, MapSense, a killer-team of Computer Scientists, that is just starting to build mapping technology from scratch. Creating beautiful, actionable, user-centered maps.

For the first time ever, because of advances in technology and crowdsourced map data, it has become economically feasible for a modestly funded startup to do so.

Want to re-imagine how Maps serve your users? Contact us (or Mapsense directly) and get early-access to their product and API.

Ways to Discover What People Actually Want

Thanks to Paul Graham (YCombinator Founder who’s written fantastic essays), Lean Startup, and others, you’ve probably been exposed to the concepts of “minimum viable products,” “customer development,” and rapid prototyping.

In a perfect world, we would be absolutely sure that folks actually want (and will pay for) the thing that we’re building before we actually build it.

So, how do we get as sure as possible? How do we get solid qualitative and quantitative feedback? Opinions, feelings, visitor stats, conversion stats, pricing stats, etc?

Here are some useful techniques:

  • Talk to would-be customers in-person and over the phone and ask them about the space that you’re interested in. What services or tools are they using? What do they like / not like?
  • Create rough wireframes in Balsamiq Mockups. Later, create high-fidelity wireframes in Photoshop (you’ll need to hire a Web/Mobile Designer for this).
  • Show those wireframes to a handful of would-be users (in the style of Coffee Shop or Hallway Usability Testing). Print them out or stitch them together using InVision, Flinto, or a similar tool.
  • Create Product Landing Pages that describe what the product is and how it works, as if the product actually exists. Can be done quickly with a Themeforest Template, Weebly (web site creator), or UnBounce (landing page creator with analytics). Check out how we did it here.
  • Bring traffic to the landing page. Buy ads on Google, Facebook, and Reddit. Track how many folks visit the page. How many click on the call-to-action (“Sign up Now”), how many provide their email address, etc.
  • Once you have enough email addresses, send a survey (we recommend SurveyMonkey) asking some questions about what they might want, how much they’d be willing to pay, how likely they are to buy, etc.

User Experience Consultant

Looking for a User Experience Consultant?  We’ll transform your ideas into concrete product designs. We’ll help you develop your product strategy, create detailed prototypes, and more.  See iterationgroup.com

Excel “Comment” Bubbles Need to be Improved

It’s about time that Microsoft improve the “Comments” functionality in Excel:

Wow. Just plain ugly. Shooting from the hip:

  • That shadow technique (angled lines) is a bit…dated.
  • Square corners? Rounded would be much better, especially given the grid-like nature of Excel. Rounded corners would create a nice contrast to the rest of the display.
  • 8 ways to tug / pull / stretch?  Totally unnecessary.  Why should this be resizable to begin with?
  • Default size: about four rows of text high.  Doesn’t automatically resize.